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August 01, 2007

Obligatory TNR-Takes-A-Vacation Post

Someone asked what I thought about TNR's sudden announcement of a full-staff all-hands one-week vacation in the midst of l'affaire Beauchamp.

Ken tipped me to this yesterday, not thinking it meant much, and that's pretty much why I didn't link it. I don't think much about it either. While it delights me to think we've so unnerved Franklin Foer he's scheduled a weeklong sabbatical of self-reflection and binge-drinking -- perhaps muttering darkly to himself about mess-boys stealing strawberries as he obsessively grinds ball-bearings together -- I doubt the two are related in any way.

Of course, as Randy Barnett notes, maybe they ought to be related: Is this really the best time for the magazine to go dark? Weren't we promised a rigorous "re-reporting" and "re"-fact-checking (not sure "re" is appropriate when it's the first time) for every claim made in Beauchamp's dispatches?

I asked source Gracie if it were the case, before this vacation, of course, that he a significant fraction of TNR's staff had been tasked to confirming Beauchamp's stories. He said he did not know how many were engaged in this (though he did say Ryan Lizza, who'd announced he was leaving for greener pastures, had been recalled to lead the "re-reportage" effort), but he did say there was not, as far as he could tell, any evidence that most of the office was busy calling Iraq to track these various nits down. Foer had not, apparently, put the magazine into serious confirmation mode.

I'm not saying that it's possible or advisable or even useful for a magazine to shut down all of its other work in order to confirm a questioned story, but Gracie did not notice any special efforts in this regard.

And now they're on vacation. I suppose they can say that with an official investigation pending, and soldiers supposedly not talking about the matter to outsiders, there's nothing lost here; but the Hot Air link notes milblogger Matt Sanchez reporting directly from FOB Falcon that no one he's spoken to has yet remembered this mysterious "melted" woman. So it seems one can still get information if one wants to.

(Incidentally, several people are quoting that but I haven't actually found it on Sanchez' blog; I've written Michael Goldfarb and Sanchez himself for help finding that particular report.)

Is Ryan Lizza still on the job tracking this stuff down? Is anybody?

Foer doesn't say.

Curious. Not "curious" as in "suggesting a nefarious plot afoot," but "curious" as in "an inadvisable and odd decision the thinking behind which I can't quite grasp."


Clarification: Goldfarb emailed me to say that comes from a private communication with Sanchez, not from a posted report.

Here's Sanchez's report, as he's publicly reported it so far.

He also just wrote back to me to confirm the statement had been made in an email.

I asked him just how many people did he ask regarding this mysterious "melted" woman? After all, if he just asked a couple, well, that wouldn't mean much. Franklin Foer, rememeber, says he's "confirmed the woman," whatever that means.

So, how many soldiers at FOB Falcon did Sanchez ask, none of whom remembered seeing this horrifically, stomach-churningly disfigured woman (as she was described in Beauchamp's account, of course)?

"Over fifty."

Over fifty people there day-in day-out have no recollection having ever seen a woman with half of her face "melted" away in a manner so sickening that men cannot even bear to eat food in her presence.

More From Matt Sanchez: He also tells me the following. One point -- regarding how busy FOB Falcon is -- counts slightly in Beauchamp's favor: just given the level of activity there, it is possible that only Beauchamp and a select few ever noticed this monstrous melted-face woman lurking in their midst.

1. The lower-level enlisted men, specialists and privates either have no idea about the whole matter, or they just think "it's stupid" and dismiss it. I am embedded with a unit that has had other reporters ride along. Several members of the 1-4 Cavalry have said that reporters will almost consistently write "bad stories" about them and it doesn't seem to matter what they see on the ground.

2. Officers and career military are wary and will not speak about the matter. It's just too easy to be sucked into some controversy by posting something or talking to the media. Their cutting scores and chances for promotion could be adversely effected.

3. Funny enough, FOB Falcon is such a busy place that it's hard to focus on what's not right in front of you, and what's right in front of the soldiers here is the day-to-day mission. I went out today with the 1-4 Cavalry to check back on a "surge" neighborhood. We left at 0900 (9 a.m) came back for lunch and went out again. We got back at 2200 (10 pm). The guys have to clean the Humvees, gas-up, get something to eat (maybe) workout (maybe) return e-mails (possibly) or call back home. They're up, again, at 0600 (6 a.m) to start at it again. My point is that they're very busy and this whole issue is much more important back home than it seems to be here at FOB Falcon.

4. Many are very happy that someone stuck up for the soldiers and didn't let this "Baghdad Diarist" story slide.

Ahem. I'm grateful to Matt Sanchez, but now having posted this stuff, I think it's time to advise him: Dude, stop giving this stuff away for free. Write it up and sell it to the Weekly Standard.

Not Unexpected, Nor Particularly Sudden: Checking back at Hugh Hewitt's, I see Barnett is apologizing for calling this an "unscheduled" vacation. In fact, it was long-scheduled.

I have deleted the word "unexpected" before the word vacation in the post above. I, too, thought it was a fairly recent decision. Not that I imagined it had anything much to do with Beauchamp, recently-scheduled or not.

It remains inadvisable to continue with the plan of a full-staff vacation while their story remains questioned and not at all confirmed. Whether Lizza or Foer or any other editors are working on this during the break, we don't know.


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posted by Ace at 03:15 PM

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